Tuesday, 1 July 2003

Going to Church

Except it’s not church as such, though in some ways more so.
Anticlockwise round the reservoir.  Crossing Doe Lane, the path becomes narrower – or rather the encroaching vegetation reaches in further.  Watch out for the stinging nettles and the brambles that catch and tug.  But the Queen Anne’s Lace adds graciousness lighter than air.  The branches close in overhead as well and the leaves are full, making a tunnel of green gloom, which suggests a journey through the innards of the world.
In the background is the roar of the motorway, part-muffled of outright nuisance.  Precision engineering, roaring wildly, the frantic rush and possibility of horrific danger; rubber thrashing against hot asphalt. (We have made it possible to get right outside the weave of life).  Luckily it is muffled enough that the mind can sink beneath it and effectively blot it out, though not altogether without cost.
Now we’ve arrived.  To the left of the path the scarified earth drops away into the clearing by the bridge.  The space is lightly enclosed by sycamore, alder, hawthorne and ash and there is a single pew for the likes of us.  Coming a few weeks ago you would have found the choir full of ramsons (it smelled like they’d all been eating French the night before) opposite a congregation of more lightly perfumed bluebells.  Now just the odd handful of red campion, like mischievous children, have scattered themselves about the place.  Under the bridge the water breaks over the weir, foaming but then smoothing around some huge old blocks of chiselled stone – suggestive of ancient graves, or the relic of an altar whose sacrifice is obsolete – before puckering up in ripples where the stream shallows over the stones and flows on its secret way. 
There is no cross as such though plenty of trees.  An alder grows straight out of the stream’s bank.  From time to time the rising water has torn the earth away from its roots and so they lie exposed, rather disturbing as though they are tortured, unmovingly twisted.  At the same time their craving for depth suggests a strength that is both restful and vital.
The light is best at the turning points of the day when it slants in from east or west, heightening the contrasts – crisp and fresh at early morning, rich and mellow with approaching sunset – but at any time it is still a delight – being constantly tinted, mixed and broken by the moving leaves and branches.
There are angels in the architecture – complete with wings, feathers and heavenly voices – occasionally you see them darting from branch to branch.  A couple of horses amble up to the nearby fence, they look around but they’re not bothered and wander off again.
Time to sit, ponder and imagine.  With Rockley Old Hall a short walk away, what characters must have passed by here or lingered on what business in centuries long gone?  In pre-Christian ages (and more recently perhaps) what spirits would have been said to inhabit such a place as this?  And what of the divine life is manifested to us here and now … ?
We have never really arrived or concluded before time calls for us to move on again.  Time to find a smooth pebble and perhaps a stick to throw into the canopy reflecting pool.  Perhaps make a wish or perhaps not.  Content just to let them go their various ways.

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